January 13, 2009

More on Rick Warren

I was determined not to do another post anytime soon on Rick Warren following all the attention (and anger from GLBT people) given to his pending prayer during the Presidential Inauguration next week, but some news items regarding the Rev. came up that I thought should be noted here.

Warren and his wife Kay have received international kudos for their activism regarding the AIDS epidemic in Africa. This article on AlterNet makes me wonder if that is justified:

Warren's defense against charges of intolerance ultimately depends upon his ace card: his heavily publicized crusade against AIDS in Africa. Obama senior adviser David Axelrod cited Warren's work in Africa as one of "the things on which [Obama and Warren] agree" on the Dec. 28 episode of Meet the Press. Warren may be opposed to gay rights and abortion, the thinking goes, but he tells evangelicals it is their God-given duty to battle one of the greatest pandemics in history. What could be wrong with that?

But since the Warren inauguration controversy erupted, the nature of his work against AIDS in Africa has gone unexamined. Warren has not been particularly forthcoming to those who have attempted to look into it. His Web site contains scant information about the results of his program. However, an investigation into Warren's involvement in Africa reveals a web of alliances with right-wing clergymen who have sidelined science-based approaches to combating AIDS in favor of abstinence-only education. More disturbingly, Warren's allies have rolled back key elements of one of the continent's most successful initiative, the so-called ABC program in Uganda. Stephen Lewis, the United Nations special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, told the New York Times their activism is "resulting in great damage and undoubtedly will cause significant numbers of infections which should never have occurred."

Warren's man in Uganda is a charismatic pastor named Martin Ssempa. The head of the Makerere Community Church, a rapidly growing congregation, Ssempa enjoys close ties to his country's first lady, Janet Museveni, and is a favorite of the Bush White House. In the capitol of Kampala, Ssempa is known for his boisterous crusading. Ssempa's stunts have included burning condoms in the name of Jesus and arranging the publication of names of homosexuals in cooperative local newspapers while lobbying for criminal penalties to imprison them.

To me, that makes this story even worse. From the Southern Voice:

The Atlanta Black LGBT Coalition last week called on Ebenezer Baptist Church, the historic church where Dr. Martin Luther King served as pastor, to remove Pastor Rick Warren as the keynote speaker for its upcoming MLK Day service.

“Rev. Warren’s hateful opposition to civil rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and reproductive rights for women, and his intolerance of diversity contradict the values of freedom and equality that this day represents,” the group said in a Dec. 24 press release.

The coalition called on Ebenezer’s pastor, Rev. Raphael G. Warnock, to rescind the invitation to Warren to speak at the Jan. 19 service.

The church did not respond to an interview request by press time.

“Bestowing Rev. Warren such a prominent role does not foster greater understanding between divided communities. Instead it drives more wedges between disenfranchised communities that are continually pitted against each other by the agents of racism and homophobia,” the gay coalition said.

Now this bothers me. How can someone who has been recently exposed as someone strongly opposing civil rights for GLBT people be a keynote speaker on a day honoring one of the greatest civil rights leaders in history? Folks, if you want to protest something, this would be a good place to do it. To celebrate a day of inclusion in a house of worship with a leader who supports exclusion is inexcusable.

Now Rev. Warren is offering refuge to any Anglican congregation that wants to break away from the Episcopal church because of their ordination of gays. From Christianity Today:

But since last summer... I’ve been on Gene Robinson and other’s attack list for my position on gay marriage. ....[Our] brothers and sisters here at St. James in Newport Beach lost their California State Supreme Court case to keep their property.

We stand in solidarity with them, and with all orthodox, evangelical Anglicans. I offer the campus of Saddleback Church to any Anglican congregation who need a place to meet, or if you want to plant a new congregation in south Orange County.

I have both of Warren's popular books, The Purpose Driven Life and, before that, the Purpose Driven Church. I got a lot out of the former and found the latter to be a turning point in my ministry work--both were books full of amazing insights.

As long as one isn't gay, that is. What a shame. A man who could do so much good is blinded to God's love for GLBT people.

Yes, Rev. Warren, even a gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender person can live a Purpose Filled Life pleasing God without renoucing the way God made them.


  1. Thanks, Jim, for bringing out even more information on Rick Warren.

  2. What's also interesting about Rev. Warren's keynote invitation at Ebenezer is that Mrs. King was a strong proponent of GLBT civil rights and Dr. King, himself, was good friends with several GLBT people and didn't express any kind of negative feelings regarding our civil rights. Of course, in his time, it would have been a LOT harder to come out in support of our cause. I met one of his friends about 10 years ago and he was absolutely sure that, had Dr. King lived out his years uninterrupted, he would have been a GLBT civil rights champion.